How to set up a grandparent and toddler group

6min read

Toddler on swing

Here we have gathered together all the essential information you need to set up a grandparent and toddler group including advice from grandparents on what works.

We suggest you print it out, and work down it, checking each item to see who can best do each task and what the next steps are.

Checklist of tried and tested tips for setting up a grandparent and toddler support group

  • Check that there is a need first. Research your local area and contact the local press to gauge the response.
  • Speak to relevant professionals such as health visitors, social workers, and outreach workers and so on to get their views.

If you decide there may be a need, still be cautious. At the start, have a drop-in session, to ask opinions about what grandparents would want from a group. Leave out a sheet asking if they would like to be contacted when a decision is made and how best to contact them.

  • At the drop-in session, actively canvas for volunteers to run the group.
  • Discuss if you intend to charge (best to keep it to a nominal amount so you don't exclude people on financial grounds).

Contact your local volunteer office and advertise on their website for volunteers to run the group. Make sure they are aware they will need a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check to do this as children are going to be part of the group. Try to get several volunteers so the group is always covered if someone goes on holiday. Volunteers can be recruited over a long period of time.

If you decide to go ahead, choose your time and day carefully, making sure it is a time that suits the group. Mornings historically appear to be best as toddlers are often tired by the afternoon.

Initially, decide on a neutral venue, until you get to know people. Be careful not to exclude people through your choice of venue (for example, a pub room might not feel right for religious purposes for some families).

  • Check all the activities going on locally and DO NOT clash with popular playgroups and activities.
  • Check out that the room and facilities you are intending to use are safe and appropriate for your group.
  • Ensure you have your paperwork in order, (policies, rules and aims, registration sheets, signing-in book, etc) for the first session and insurance in place.

Produce flyers and posters and distribute them everywhere!! Get them to doctors, health visitors, midwives, and social workers - anyone who comes into contact with families. Ask schools, libraries, local churches and others who produce newsletters to mention the group as often as possible.

Publicise via other groups orientated to possible grandparents. These could include gardening clubs, halls used by a range of people, Women’s Institute meetings, faith groups (churches, mosques, etc), estate agents, chip shops, newsagents. You could even canvas at a local pub where families go for Sunday lunch.

  • Try to distribute the leaflets personally. People seem to be more willing to promote it for you this way.
  • Advertise well in advance of the opening, and keep re-advertising. Groups are soon forgotten, so you need to keep reminding people.
  • Use local newspapers and local websites. They usually have ‘what’s on’ sections that are free-of-charge.
  • If the response is poor initially try introducing and publicising special sessions, such as Christmas crafts, coffee and cakes, and so on.

Attend partnership meetings or go to local schools and community centres to let everyone know about the group. Attend local fetes and open days to promote the group. Have a display of information that you can leave behind – even just a few home-made leaflets - if you can’t stay for the whole event.

  • Once you have one or two grandparents who attend regularly, encourage them to decide on the format of the group, in the hope that they will take ownership.
  • Plan a ‘formal’ launch. See if you can get an article and picture in the local press. Further press releases about any events are great publicity.

REMEMBER: these groups can take a year or more to build membership before they 'take off'.

Word of mouth is key. However much publicity you send out, it’s usually one grandparent who introduces another.

This article was kindly provided by Grandparents' Association. The Grandparents’ Association has been working for children since 1987. It’s a member’s organisation and seeks to improve the lives of children by working with and for all grandparents, especially those denied contact; caring for their grandchild fulltime; or who have childcare responsibilities for their grandchildren; or are interested in the educational and welfare needs of their grandchildren.

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